The cream-coloured bear can be seen running off into the forest in the left portion of the photo. (Alexandra Buhr photo)

Spirit bear possibly spotted in West Kootenay

A local resident spotted the white-coloured bear while on an evening trail run near Castlegar on May 27

When Castlegar resident Alexandra Buhr was on an evening trail run about three kilometres up the McPhee Forest Service Road on Wednesday, she thought she just saw a normal black bear and two cubs running away from her off the side of the road.

But upon second glimpse, she realized that one of the cubs wasn’t just another normal bear.

Buhr saw that one of the cubs had a white-coloured coat, which is a common characteristic of many Kermode bears typically found along the coast of northwestern British Columbia.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the white coat. I really took me a while to realize what it was,” said Buhr.

“It was such a once-and-a-lifetime sight.”

Even though Buhr had seen plenty of bear previously as an forest technician and avid trail runner, she said nothing had compared close to her most recent encounter.

Buhr said the moment between her and the bears was peaceful.

“I was a pretty good distance away from them when we saw each other. I had the feeling that they understood me and I understood them,” said Buhr.

“They knew I wasn’t going to get any closer to them. They had the entire the forest and mountain to run off to.”

Buhr said she waited to see if the bears would come back to snap a better photo, but they never returned.

An Ootischenia resident also saw a similar coloured bear on May 27 in the area, according to Buhr.

Castlegar conservation officer Blair Thin said if the bear was a Kermode bear, it would be one of the first sightings ever in the Kootenays.

“From what I can recall, our conservation office has never received reports of a Kermode bear sighting or complaint,” said Thin.

“That is at least in the nine years that I’ve worked in the Kootenays.”

After reviewing Buhr’s photo, Thin said he thinks the cub is just a black bear with a blonder coat.

Despite his thoughts, Thin said there’s always a small possibility that it was a Kermode bear.

The Kermode bear’s white coat is caused by a recessive gene found in a current subspecies of black bears, according to Buhr.

READ MORE: New licence plates announced to showcase B.C. parks


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connor.trembley@castlegarnews.com

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